Visiting a pagoda and worshipping had never before caught interests of Tran Lan Anh, an office employee in Hanoi.
|Thang Nghiem pagoda (Photo VNA)|
|Venerable Thich Minh Thanh (Photo VNA)|
It now changes. The 35-year-old woman is often seen at Tran Quoc pagoda, which is among the four pagodas to safeguard the capital city, on every first and fifteenth days of each lunar month, or at big events of the country.
"I got accustomed to worshipping at pagodas on the first and fifteenth days of each lunar month with my mother in law," Anh said.
"Now, when an occasion comes around, I prepare incenses and flowers and go to pagoda to pray for my family's happiness. There, I really feel at peace".
Only when visiting a pagoda, can one feel peace and tranquility, free from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Burning incense dedicated to Buddha and praying for peace are common practices for Buddhist followers.
Many Vietnamese people do not visit pagodas on a regular basis but still take refuge in Buddha, the Dharma and in the Sangha.
Many month-old babies were "sold symbolically" to the pagoda or handed over to His Royal Highness for an easier upbringing.
Many families have laid down the ashes of their deceased at pagodas, to keep the souls of those beloved from feeling lonely and isolated.
These ways prove that Buddhism was encompassed into the way Vietnamese people think and live, making a deep impression on Vietnamese culture.
Until the Ly dynasty (1009-1224), and later, the Tran dynasty (1225-1400), Buddhism flourished and has now become the national religion. The country has around 45 million Buddhist followers, 45,000 monks and nuns, and 14,775 pagodas, monasteries and temples nationwide.
In 1981, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha brought together nine sects, becoming a strong organisation and contributing to national unification by adopting the mantra Buddhism – Nation – Socialism.
Buddhism and other religious beliefs are closely linked together and the Vietnamese also worship deities at shrines and the Mother Goddess at temples.
The four most worshipped deities are the Four Dharmas of Cloud, Rain, Thunder and Lightning, also called Cloud Goddess, Wind Goddess, Thunder Goddess and Lightning Goddess, cast in the style of a statue of Buddha. For worshipping, Buddhists established a series of 'Buddha first, Deity second' or 'Buddha first, Goddess second' pagodas. The Vietnamese also often bring their Gods, Saints, Goddesses, Tutelary Gods, God of Land and national heroes to pagodas to worship.
The Venerable Thich Minh Thanh, head of the Thang Nghiem Pagoda, reveals that Vietnamese Buddhism comprises of three main sects, namely Zen, Pure Land and Tantra. Pure Land is a kind of meditation mainly based on the power of Buddha while reciting Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra. It is easy to practice but difficult to believe and understand. The Zen sect focuses on creating an untroubled mind, removing all bad thoughts and praying with the aim of 'beholding Buddhism and attaining enlightenment', or using the mind to change mind. Meanwhile, Tantra focuses on chanting, to ward off evil spirits to attain enlightenment.
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